Even the most basic of Portuguese cookery will make you feel like a supremely talented cook. The same can be said of much of South American cookery. Rarely do these cuisines call for complicated techniques or a lengthy list of ingredients. This is an honest way to cook, using a few simple key ingredients and will unlock the door to big, hearty flavours and comfort food like no other.
2 pork hocks
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 white onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) white wine
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
300 g (10½ oz/1½ cups) dried white (cannellini) beans
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Wash the pork hocks and pat dry
with paper towel. Rub 1 teaspoon of the salt over the pork.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over high heat. Sit the pork hocks in the dish, side by side, and cook for 10–12 minutes, turning the pork often, until the skin is well browned. Remove the pork from the dish and set aside.
Add the onions, carrots, garlic and bay leaf to the dish, stirring to combine and remove any bits stuck to the bottom of the dish. Cover and cook for
5 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened. Pour in the wine and
stir again to remove any stuck-on bits, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, paprika, white beans and remaining teaspoon of salt.
Return the pork hocks to the dish and add 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) water. Nuzzle the pork hocks in the dish, so the white beans are evenly spread around them. Bring everything to the boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours. Remove from the oven and leave to rest, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.
If chilli is your thing, add 1 teaspoon chilli powder, cayenne pepper or chilli flakes when you add the paprika to the dish. To freshen things up a little, roughly chop a few handfuls of coriander (cilantro) leaves and stir them into the stew just before serving.
This intriguing dish is often said to be one of South Africa’s national dishes. Bobotie combines flavours that at first seem … well … just wrong. But, when cooked, this initial feeling of trepidation gives way to a feeling that you are eating something wonderfully old-fashioned and delicious.
Serves 6 to 8
2 slices white bread
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) milk
1 tablespoon light olive oil
2 brown onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) minced (ground) beef
4 tablespoons madras curry powder
85 g (3 oz/½ cup) raisins
2 tablespoons fruit chutney
2 tablespoons apricot jam
8 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Put the bread in a bowl with the milk and soak for a couple of minutes. Remove the bread and squeeze out the excess milk. Set the soaked bread aside and reserve the milk.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onions and stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beef and stir-fry for 8–10 minutes, until browned, using a wooden spoon to break up the mince into small pieces.
Stir in the curry powder, raisins, chutney, jam and 4 bay leaves and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the spices in the curry powder are aromatic. Add the soaked bread, stir to combine, and season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish.
Measure 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the reserved milk into a bowl. Beat the eggs into the milk and pour over the beef mixture. Arrange the remaining bay leaves over the top. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the custard mixture has set to a golden brown. Serve with sliced banana tossed in shredded coconut.
No guessing where this pudding originates. This traditional Egyptian dessert is usually made with cooked puff pastry, but I couldn’t resist using croissants. It’s best to use croissants that are a day or two old.
Serves 10 to 12
4 large croissants, about 250 g
(9 oz) total weight
50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) flaked almonds
40 g (1½ oz/⁄ cup) pine nuts
35 g (1⁄ oz/⁄ cup) pistachio nuts
10–12 dried pitted dates, chopped
20 g (¾ oz/⁄ cup) shredded coconut
500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) full-cream (whole) milk
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
110 g (3¾ oz/½ cup) sugar
125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing (confectioners’) sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Lightly grease a 3 litre (105 fl oz/12 cup capacity) baking dish with butter. Tear the croissants into large bite-sized pieces and put half of the croissant pieces into the dish.
Combine the almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, dates and coconut in a bowl. Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in another bowl.
Sprinkle half the nut mixture over the croissants, sprinkle half the sugar over the top, then pour over half the milk mixture. Repeat, adding another layer of croissants, the remaining nut mixture and sugar. Pour the remaining milk mixture over the top.
Beat the cream until thickened, taking care not to overbeat the cream or it will be grainy. Spoon the cream over the pudding, then gently spread to evenly cover the top. Sift over the icing sugar. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden. Serve hot.
Next time: Use chocolate croissants or 4 large slices of brioche instead of the plain croissants.